Sophy Gardner, Labour's parliamentary candidate for Gloucester, responds to Richard Graham's Annual Report
How would you test the success of our city? Everyone having a well-paid job? A comfortable home? Our teenagers having lots of local opportunities to pursue when they leave school? Visitors to our city leaving with a positive image of Gloucester?
It’s bemusing that our city’s MP seems to measure how well we are doing by looking to ‘overtake’ Cheltenham, and hoping that Cheltenham ‘will fall behind’.
What a sad day when our member of parliament deems us to be successful based on a town nearby falling behind, whatever the historic rivalries.
I want Gloucester to be part of a successful county and the key city at the intersection of the Midlands, the Cotswolds, Wales and the South West, but not at the expense of our neighbours.
That is Tory policy neatly summed up - a policy that is alright for you and forget the rest and I am pleased that instead Labour plans to chart a new course.
We will devolve £30 billion of funds to the regions, meaning better accountability to our communities, encouragement to cooperate and integrate locally and saving money by preventing problems rather than reacting to them.
We all want Gloucester to go from strength to strength, and it is the role of all elected representatives to work together to achieve that.
Come election time, for both parliament and the council, it is right that residents look at what has been achieved by those representing them.
Some of the MP’s claims are largely due to the coordinated work of others or in the best spirit of recycling.
The creation and building of Gloucester Academy was agreed before the last election - it was the last Labour government who made this commitment and in fact the money given was less than promised.
Many of the projects he mentions can be found in the Regeneration Framework document published in 2007. Progress with these plans stalled when the Tories came into power and abolished the South West Regional Development Agency.
And on housing, it is the united efforts of the city council and Gloucester City Homes that must be primarily commended for their hard work on the stock transfer.
Housing brings me back to the central question – how to measure the success of our city.
Our MP has committed to building 100 houses in 4 years.
Gloucester deserves to be aiming higher than this.
Labour’s aim is not just in numbers, although we have committed to building 200,000 new homes each year by 2020.
Our vision is that everyone should be able to have a decent, secure house at a price they can afford. To make this happen, we will promote coordination by working with surrounding authorities, bringing an end to land-banking and giving our councils the power to say to developers ‘use it or lose it’ so that we don’t have brownfield sites sitting dormant.
Across the UK, it has been Labour councils which have been delivering at a local level on housing, with Labour authorities committed to building, on average, 862 homes a year, compared to 508 a year by Tory councils.
But let’s put the achievements, claims, Gloucester versus Cheltenham aside; most strikingly there wasn’t any mention of our people. It is the people of Gloucester, their health, wellbeing, opportunities and prosperity that must drive all plans for our City because they are fundamental to our future.
Buildings, projects, the latest retail development, are only of value if they make a tangible difference to people living here – not just so an elected representative can point to something they’ve done, amongst a long list of things still waiting to be tackled.
The current MP suggests that we give him another five years, but I want to set out a different future for Gloucester and be part of a different direction for this country.
I don’t think we can afford to wait another five years for that.
Next year, we have a choice between a Labour government that will make our country work for ordinary people and families once again, against a Tory government that will look after only the few.
We want a city that doesn’t need Foodbanks, that isn’t having one home repossessed everyday, that doesn’t have hundreds of unemployed young people, that has wages lower than the national average.
We want a city that makes the most of its heritage, its geography, its neighbours’ successes, its culture and, most important of all, all of its people.